Handa, S, Park, M, Darko, RO, Akoto-Osei, I, Davis, B and Daidone, S, 2014. Livelihood empowerment against poverty program impact evaluation, 3ie Grantee Final Report. New Delhi: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).
Social cash transfers are rapidly gaining popularity in developing countries as a way to mitigate and break the inter-generational cycle of poverty. Several African governments are now experimenting with targeted social cash transfers to vulnerable groups. They are searching for alternative strategies to attain the health related Millennium Development Goal (MDG) through various demand-side interventions focusing on the health sector like community-based health insurance, public health insurance and differentiated or elimination of user fees for specific target groups.
Livelihoods Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) is a government social cash transfer programme which provides cash and health insurance to extremely poor households across Ghana with at least one of three demographic categories: households with orphan or vulnerable child (OVC), elderly poor, or person with extreme disability unable to work (PWD). LEAP households are poorer than Ghana’s national rural average, with a median per capita daily expenditure of approximately 85 US cents.
LEAP’s objectives are to alleviate short-term poverty and encourage long-term human capital development.
This evaluation of the causal impact of LEAP primarily focused on key intermediate variables. At the household level, these are consumption and non-consumption expenditure and enrollment in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). At the child level, the primary impacts are school and health access.
The study used a longitudinal propensity score matching (PSM) design. Baseline data were collected in 2010 in three regions (Brong Ahafo, Central and Volta) from future LEAP beneficiaries (n=699). A comparison group of households (n=914) was constructed using PSM. Treatment and comparison households were re-interviewed after 24 months.
Likelihood of holding savings increased significantly (11 percentage-points, pp). LEAP has also had an impact on debt repayments and reduced loan holdings, particularly among female-headed households. However, the intervention had no impact on household consumption.
The pattern of impacts of LEAP suggests that it allows beneficiaries to re-establish or strengthen social networks, with positive impact on both the value of gifts received and the amount of credit extended to others. LEAP has led to a 16 percentage point increase in household heads who feel happy about their life, especially among female-headed and smaller households.
LEAP has increased school enrollment among secondary school aged children by 7 percentage points, and reduced grade repetition among both primary and secondary aged children. Among primary aged children LEAP has reduced absenteeism by 10 percentage points. Secondary school enrollment impacts are limited to boys, but attendance impacts are bigger for girls.
Other aspects of the evaluation of LEAP, including the Baseline Report, Operations Report and Qualitative Report on Economic Impacts, can all be downloaded from the Transfer Project website.